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Osian’s Cinefan Best Director winner Ajita Suchitra Veera on her film BALLAD OF RUSTOM

She has won the best director award for her film BALLAD OF RUSTOM at the recently concluded Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival of Asian and Arab cinema held at New Delhi. Her film opened the Indian Competition Section at the festival and was received fairly well by the festival audience and the jury. The film is the labor of love and an expression of the unique cinematic and artistic vision of this FTII trained filmmaker. Ajita has shot, processed, and edited the film following the classical tradition of filmmaking to retain the pristine technical quality of cinema. She has been traveling all over the world participating in film festivals and markets like Cannes to find a wider audience for her kind of cinema. She answered some of my questions about her life and work in an interview. 

How important is it for you to win the Best Direction Award of Osian's Cinefan Indian Competition?

I would say very important –the cinematic language I have used to create my vision (BALLAD OF RUSTOM) on screen is extremely unique to India. It is an artistic challenge and expression that may not be often understood easily. It is necessary in this case to engage with the director and know his/her vision and the craft and then discover why a particular film is made the way it is. A film festival platform and environment provide such an opportunity.

When do you plan to release the film in India? Do you think the film has commercial potential? Have you been talking to Indian as well as International distributors?

I am definitely looking forward to a release in India. It’s high on agenda and most likely I shall open it late this year or may be early next year. I think every film is a commercial entity. I also believe that something that is unique finds a market. It’s not about market dictating your vision or aesthetic. I am looking forward to international as well as domestic distribution of the film. India is where I want such cinema to be seen.

Tell us about yourself. What is it that got you into filmmaking?

I grew up in a very liberal family. My father is an artist –photographer. As a child I would watch worldcinema classics –Satyajit Ray and Kurosawa –and often at home there were discussions and conversations centered on cinema. Hollywood Classics were part of my childhood too. I have also watched a lot of Hindi Cinema of the 50s and 60s and love it. Cinema was always important in my life. However, the decisive move came in the year 2000 when I decided to drop my education in Science and completely follow the path of cinema by joining FTII.

How difficult was it for you to make BALLAD OF RUSTOM? How did you organize production funding?

It was tough I’d say but no issues on that since what drives you ultimately is your vision and self-belief. I wanted to actualize my unique vision and creating this kind of cinema was of course not easy –specially since I don’t believe in delivering messages. I believe in ideas and the human experience and also as a craftsman I was testing new grounds in cinematic language. I graduated from FTII in 2004 and worked as a freelance director to sustain myself financially and artistically. However, the passion and restlessness to make my kind of cinema was always there and that is what drove me to make BALLAD OF RUSTOM. I gathered funds slowly over a few years and established my film production company “Imaginem Cinema” to make the kind of films that I believe are unique and imaginative.

What next?

I am dabbling in a few film projects. We will be rolling another feature film soon.

Rajesh Kumar Singh